I think it is obvious to anyone that Professional Game Match Official Limited, the organisation responsible for refereeing at the professional level, is struggling to deliver a cadre of world-class officials. Frankly, there is an insufficient number of quality officials and if there is a succession plan then it is not delivering. Instead of a desired standard of at least ten referees capable of officiating any of the top games, the number year on year is reducing.
At the start of the season the PGMOL set up Select Group 2 to officiate on the Championship and I was positive about this move, believing that after one season in operation it would deliver at least six referees available for promotion to the panel of referees officiating Premier League games.
However, it was announced some weeks ago that only David Coote, Andrew Madley and Chris Kavanagh would move up from SG2 to SG1. Why did the PGMOL not take the opportunity to look to the future and ensure that every game of the play-offs was officiated by the top performing SG2 referees? Instead they appointed the very likeable 57-year-old Nigel Miller to one of these games.
I am clear that there is a need to bring a further three into the senior squad. I am also convinced that a root and branch review needs to take place of the PGMOL organisation from top to bottom and that the new chairman Mike Foster needs to get tough.
Look back at my blogs and the comments that I made on a regular basis that the best referee in the world, Mark Clattenburg, was not receiving appointments to the top games. He finally gave up, bemused I am sure about Mike Riley’s management approach.
This weekend we have read some damning comments on behalf of one of the world’s top managers, Pep Guardiola, stating that the referees are not mobile enough and that refereeing was not about ticking boxes.
How often have we heard from the very experienced former FIFA referee Mark Halsey that it is about getting the big decisions right and managing players?
Sadly, once again we have seen throughout the season a catalogue of game-changing incorrect decisions. We have also witnessed performances from some match officials that were well below expectations.
So how does the PGMOL view the group?
They clearly see Michael Oliver as the top referee underpinned by him being appointed to 33 games this season.
However, it is very poor management by the PGMOL to expose this official unnecessarily by appointing him to officiate games involving Liverpool (seven times) and Tottenham Hotspur (seven times). This is excessive and one wonders how much thought they are putting into the process.
Mike Dean, Bobby Madley, Jon Moss and Anthony Taylor have each officiated 30 games with Dean refereeing Leicester City on 5 occasions,
Ideally, if the group was stronger then the exposure to any one club would be less than 3 in a season including the FA Cup.
Martin Atkinson, one of the senior referees and the only UEFA Elite level referee now that Clattenburg has departed, officiated 27 games. In his last, at Liverpool, he failed to get in the correct position to award Middlesbrough a clear penalty kick and a red card for the offender.
That was a game changer as Liverpool went on to win 3-0. However, I have to say that this has been Atkinson’s best season for some years. He, like Clattenberg, has benefited from the UEFA training camps and the coaching from Pierluigi Collina.
Andre Marriner, with 28 games, had a sticky start to the season but, with improved fitness and confidence, ended on a high note delivering a quality performance in the Sheffield Wednesday v Huddersfield Town second leg play-off game,
Craig Pawson and Neil Swarbrick were each appointed to 24 games with both needing to improve. Pawson is frankly not mobile enough and is too one-paced resulting in his proximity to play at times not being credible.
I hope that he will this summer set himself some S.M.A.R.T objectives to improve and to work on his dynamic sprinting.
Now the PGMOL need to bite the bullet and make some important calls.
Kevin Friend and Lee Mason had just 20 games each, which clearly shows a lack of trust in them by the PGMOL management.Whilst they are both really nice guys, I feel that after several years in Select Group 1 they need to drop down to SG2 where they will deliver improved performances.
Then we have Mike Jones (18 games) Roger East (11 games). My view is that they should be dropped to the Championship and replaced with some fresh blood from SG2.
Stuart Attwell and Paul Tierney, with ten games each,have not been given regular appointments. They need to be retained and given a run in the Premier League. I would suggest ten consecutive appointments next season to determine whether, at the end of next season, they should be retained. I would like to see both of these referees being mentored by Martin Atkinson to prepare them for potential promotion to FIFA.
Graham Scott, with 8 games only, should be dropped to the Championship. Clearly the management lack confidence in this official. Select Group 1 should have no passengers.
Lee Probert is in a different category after his 4 games in returning from a long term injury.
I would suggest that after the opening three months of the new season his position and contract should be reviewed.
PGMOL Performance Analysis System – yes, the tick boxes and invigilator panel is a review of performances. It appears to me that quality coaching is still on the back seat and that any one-to-one mentoring is lacking in quality.
The PGMOL need to review every coach and every invigilator to determine if they are really contributing anything worthwhile. If it was a results driven industry they would be long gone.
I would have no hesitation in bringing in some fresh blood in order to get some value for the clubs, given the cost of the PGMOL is around the £15m mark.
Too many chiefs and not enough Indians is the phrase that comes to mind.